Crystal Donahue, a senior mass communication major at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, spent 16 days with a team three other Go Now student missionaries during Christmas break sharing Christ with students in East Asia. Here’s a glimps into one encounter she had.
Ernesto wasn’t Asian, nor did I meet him overseas. He was just the guy sitting in Row 3 Seat B headed to Texas for work on the same plane as me.
“How was your New Year’s celebration?” he asked as I shoved my backpack under the seat in front of me.
“Good.” I smiled reminiscing on my time overseas. “I spent it in Hong Kong with some good friends.”
He looked at me surprised.
“What about you?” I asked. “How was yours?”
Ernesto had spent the holidays with his family in California before heading to base in Texas for military duty. He has been in the Army for more than 10 years and was used to treasuring the small amount of time he had with loved ones. He shared a few short stories before centering the conversation on me.
Ernesto was an inquisitive man. I tried to ask him questions about himself, but he was too interested in my journeys.
I explained to him my interest in other cultures, and he was fascinated by it. He then saw the pen on my bag that I had received from the BGCT Annual Meeting that read “End Hunger 2015.” He asked why I was an advocate of world hunger alleviation so I got to share with them some facts about food instability in Texas and the need for hunger ministries. His eyes got big as he became so curious.
“Why do you want to do so much good?” he asked.
The answer to his question was easy. Out of the overflow of love that Christ has for me, I desire to share with others. But when he questioned me, I don’t know what happened. I built a wall of protection around my faith.
“I have really good parents,” I said. “They set a good example for me, and I want to be like them and serve the community.”
Yes, this was true. But it wasn’t the full truth. For some reason I was hesitant to say that Jesus was the reason for my intentions. I was afraid if I gave him a religious answer that I would lose his interest.
Our conversation turned around, and we began chatting about music and movies until both of us nodded off.
But I wrestled with sleep. I had missed my opportunity to share Christ with this man. On mission trips, it’s implied your conversations will end up about the Lord. In fact, you do all you can to hope that whatever subject you talk about will end with the Gospel.
It’s sad how quickly my mind switched to, “I’m back in America, he probably already knows.” It didn’t take but 12 hours for me to lose my missions-minded attitude after I had seen the Lord do amazing things in East Asia.
Luckily I had some time to pray before the end of the flight.
“Twenty minutes until we land,” the pilot came over the speaker.
I looked at Ernesto. He was staring out the window. He seemed so broken, so hopeless.
“Thank you,” I told him, and he took off his headphones. “Thank you for your service to this country. Thank you for protecting my freedom so that I am able to have the opportunity to travel the world and serve people.”
While in Asia, I realized how blessed our nation is to have freedom of religion, and this was the perfect opportunity to tell someone who defends my freedom that I am thankful for his service, because he makes my service possible.
Thank the Lord I had the opportunity to share Christ with him and encourage him to go to church and find help. He was broken by circumstance and needed help.
He then told me that he was afraid of church because he hadn’t always made the best choices in life.
The plane landed, and we went our separate ways. It broke my heart to think that this man, like many, feared the church. It bothered me that it took me hours into the flight to tell him Jesus was my passion. We talked about in debriefing the necessity of being on guard and girding up our loins. It didn’t take long for Him to test me in this area.
When off the “mission field,” it’s easy to get off “mission.” Thank goodness He isn’t done teaching when we think we’re through learning.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24